If you ranked all the running backs in the NFL, where would you put Peyton Hillis? Obviously the cover of video games isn’t indicative of the truth. The real answer here is that nobody really knows for sure. The stats are incomplete and he really has only played meaningful snaps in two seasons. One of those was with a Broncos team coached by Mike Shanahan. The ghost of Reuben Droughns tells us to take those results with a grain of salt. For some reason Cleveland fans and media want to talk about it. Rizzo, Hammer and Fedor were discussing it last week on WKNR and the conversation leaked onto Twitter where we discussed it there. Here are the questions.
How good is Peyton Hillis amongst all NFL running backs?
Where does he rank in the AFC North between Rashard Mendenhall, Ray Rice and Cedric Benson?
Where does he rank in the NFL?
Does he fumble too much?
Is he durable enough?
Is he a one-year wonder?
When there are no actual football issues to discuss, these are the issues that take up our time. Here’s my take. It is a simple one. Based on what I saw last year, Peyton Hillis is good enough.
That’s it. Peyton Hillis isn’t without his faults. He runs in a manner that could easily lead to injury and fumbles, both of which he experienced last season. He also runs with enough violence and purpose that he can take over games, pump up his team and score touchdowns. He has the ability to get into space and catch the ball when asked to do so.
Would I take Mendenhall or Rice or Arian Foster over Peyton Hillis? Who cares? Peyton Hillis is here. He was brought here for next to nothing. He outperformed anybody that the Browns gave up by a long-shot. He has out-performed pretty much every single offensive player since the Browns have been back in 1999.
If you must go to the stats to determine where he ranks, do what you need to, but I’ll skip it. You just can’t control for all those important variables. Peyton Hillis ran behind the Browns line. He didn’t have a consistent QB handing him the ball all year long. He played for a team that failed to develop another offensive weapon beyond Ben Watson in the passing game. He played through injuries without any other running backs to spell him on the roster. He played for a run-heavy team that looked to play more ball control offense. Oh, and Brian Daboll.
If you want to make the argument that Peyton Hillis is the 3rd or 4th best running back in the AFC North, be my guest. I think it is senseless because all those guys were asked to do different kinds of things in different kinds of schemes with different kinds of teammates. Who is to say if Peyton Hillis wouldn’t be better than Ray Rice or Mendenhall if he played for those teams? Who is to say that he isn’t the worst out of them all?
At the end of it all, Hillis doesn’t need anyone to make excuses or arguments for him. He performed quite impressively more times than not a season ago. He earned the right to say he is #1 on the Browns depth chart going into this season. He was good enough that running back wasn’t a huge priority on draft day this season for Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren, despite the drafting of Owen Marecic. Hillis is very very far from being an embarrassment to the Browns no matter who plays the same position around the league.
What we should really be concerned about is figuring out who could emerge as a 1a type of running back for the Browns to take some of the load off.